Ian McKellen Says Gay People Are ‘Disregarded’ By Hollywood and the Oscars
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts may have announced sweeping changes to their membership and governing board that will take effect next year, but that hasn’t changed much about the state of this year’s Oscar race, or the conversation around its lack of diversity. Ian McKellen is the latest actor to weigh in on the controversy surrounding 2016’s nominees and their total and all-consuming whiteness. He had some very powerful things to say.
Speaking in London at the launch of a BFI Shakespeare season, McKellen agreed that black (and Asian and Latino and women) actors’ complaints about the Oscars are valid, while noting that gay men and women are also often excluded from awards consideration as well — and from the wider American movie industry in general. More of his comments, from Sky News:
It’s not only black people who’ve been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it’s certainly gay people to this day. And these are all legitimate complaints and the Oscars are the focus of those complaints of course.
And from The Guardian:
“No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance ... How clever, how clever [that straight men like Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Sean Penn have won Oscars for playing gay men] ... What about giving me one for playing a straight man?”
And then there was this:
My speech has been in two jackets … ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”
That’s just devastating. (McKellen lost to Jim Broadbent for Iris and Roberto Benigni for Life Is Beautiful.) And McKellen’s words do put into context how often straight actors playing gay men or women are considered “brave” or particularly noteworthy by Academy voters, while gay men actors playing straight is not considered a challenge at all, or even given a second thought. And that’s really the key thing that needs to change; giving these issues serious consideration and not simply ignoring the double standards around the Academy and the voting on the Oscars. Hopefully the changes that have already been announced begin to push the organization in the right direction.